US President Joe Biden begins Middle East tour with visit to Israel
The trips from a part of Biden's first tour of the Middle East as the US president.
The 79-year-old leader's visit to Jeddah will be the focus of the tour, after Biden branded Saudi Arabia a "pariah" over the 2018 murder of dissident Saudi journalist and US resident Jamal Khashoggi.
Air Force One -- which has left the United States and is expected to land at 1230 GMT in Tel Aviv -- will also make an unprecedented direct flight between the Jewish state and the Gulf kingdom that does not recognise its existence.
Biden must condemn Middle East leaders’ systematic human rights violations: Amnesty International
US President Joe Biden must speak out against human rights violations by Middle Eastern leaders during his ongoing visit to the region, Amnesty International said Wednesday.
Biden must "press for immediate and substantive change" from the leaders of Egypt, Israel, Palestine and Saudi Arabia, the human rights group said in a press release.
The US president must call Israel to task for its "system of apartheid against Palestinians", including the construction of illegal settlements in the West Bank, unlawful killings, and bombing campaigns, Amnesty said.
He should also speak out on the Palestinian authorities’ repression of freedom of expression, the human rights group said.
Egypt and Saudi Arabia must be called out for their attempts to cover up their systemic human rights abuses, it added.
"President Biden must seize this opportunity to prioritise the advancement of human rights over short-term interests, and make clear that there can be no double standards when it comes to promoting human rights," said Paul O’Brien, Amnesty International USA Executive Director.
"If the US continues on its current course, it will only embolden abusive governments to further silence dissenting voices, oppress minorities and ruthlessly crush the rights of millions of people in the region," he added.
Biden delivers speech after arrival in Israel
US President Joe Biden delivered a speech following his arrival in Israel, stating “it is an honour to once again stand with friends and visit the independent jewish state of Israel”, according to a live broadcast by USA Today.
"This is my tenth visit, every chance to return to this great country… is a blessing because the connection between the Israeli people and the American people is bone deep," Biden said, stressing “you need not be a Jew to be a Zionist".
“We invest in each-other, we dream together, we’re part of what has always been the objective we both had... with this visit we’re strengthening our connections even further," Biden continues.
The president shared that following the welcoming ceremony, he would go straight to a briefing on Israeli missiles and rocket defence capabilities.
He also shared he aims to "continue to advance Israels integration into the region [as]… greater peace… stability… connection is critical for all… people of the region".
Biden also stated he believes a two-state solution, that remains "the best way to ensure the future of equal measure of freedom prosperity and democracy for Israelis and Palestinians”.
Israeli President Herzog delivers welcoming speech to Biden
The Israeli President Isaac Herzog delivered a welcoming speech to US President Biden upon his arrival in the Jewish state.
“Mr President, welcome to Israel… the people of Israel welcome you to the holy land with open arms and joyous hearts," Herzog said, as seen in a live broadcast of Biden's arrival by USA Today.
"Here Mr president you are truly amongst family, like the biblical Joseph, you are both a visionary and a leader,” he continued.
Herzog said Biden's "historic visit reflects the deep partnership" shared between Israel and the USA, liking it to a partnership "rooted in... shared commitment to democracy, justice and freedom”.
The Israeli president also highlighted that the president would discuss “security challenges emanating from Iran and its proxies”, as he expressed hope that Biden's tour of the Middle East "will help advance a regional vision of prosperity, integration, peace and security for our entire region”.
Kremlin hopes Biden visit to Middle East won't aim to foster anti-Russian relations
The Kremlin said on Wednesday that it hoped President Joe Biden's visit to Saudi Arabia would not be used to try to foster anti-Russian relations, just as the United States seeks to convince Riyadh to boost oil production amid soaring prices.
White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan said on Monday that Biden will make the case for greater oil production from OPEC nations to bring down gasoline prices when he meets Gulf leaders in Saudi Arabia this week.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov also said that Russia, the world's second largest oil exporter after Saudi Arabia and the world's biggest exporter of natural gas, highly valued cooperation with Saudi Arabia within the framework of OPEC+ group of world's leading oil producers.
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CPJ urges Biden to push for press freedom during Middle East visit
US President Joe Biden must mount a “robust defence” of press freedom in his meetings with the leaders of Egypt, Israel, and Saudi Arabia during his Middle East visit this week, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) said on Tuesday.
"Too many journalists in the region are imprisoned or killed for probing the root causes of instability and for applying a critical lens that holds leaders to account. This must end," said Sherif Mansour, CPJ’s Middle East and North Africa program coordinator.
"There is no better way to champion free and independent media than for the president to demand accountability in places where it is under threat."
The CPJ reiterated its call for Biden to grant the family of US-Palestinian journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, who was shot dead by Israeli forces in May while reporting in Jenin, their request to meet the president during his trip.
They also urged Biden to call on Egypt and Saudi Arabia to release the dozens of journalists they have jailed, and end their harassment of media workers.
In an op-ed for the Washington Post last week, Biden said “fundamental freedoms are always on the agenda” and will be during this trip.
The CPJ questioned Biden’s statement, saying: “without concrete goals, this broad claim is far from enough”.
Iran warns Biden's Middle East tour will not enhance security in Israel
Iran says that President Biden's tour of the Middle East will not bring about security for Israel, the Islamic republic's regional arch-enemy.
During Biden's visit - where he will stop off in Israel on Wednesday - Israeli leaders are expected to urge tougher action against Iran as Israel's caretaker prime minister, Yair Lapid, said talks "will focus first and foremost on the issue of Iran".
Tehran and Tel Aviv are sworn enemies who have been engaged in a "shadow war" of attacks and sabotage.
"If the visits of the American officials to the countries of the region are to strengthen the position of the Zionist regime and to normalise the relations of this regime with some countries, their efforts will not create security for the Zionists in any way," Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi said in a statement, referring to Israel.
Raisi warned that if Biden's goal on the trip was to bolster Israel's security, he was destined to fail.
Israel hopes Biden's Middle East tour will lead to a common Middle East market
The White House said an aim of the visit includes "expanding regional economic and security cooperation".
Asked at an economic conference hosted by Calcalist newspaper what he expects to arise from Biden's visit, Lieberman said: "The creation of a new, common market in the Middle East. That's the big challenge."
"It will change the reality here from end to end, in both the fields of security and of economics. Therefore I hope the emphasis during Biden's visit will be on creating this new market in the Middle East."
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